The Complete Guide to Marriott STARS and Luminous

Marriott International is the largest hotel chain in the world, with an international footprint of over 6,500 properties and a very popular Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.

However, there are two lesser-known Marriott programs which aren’t as widely discussed, but that can offer a ton of value for paid bookings.

Marriott STARS and Marriott Luminous allow you to enjoy enhanced benefits at certain Marriott properties, without needing to have Marriott Bonvoy elite status at all. These two programs are only available through select travel advisors, meaning that you can’t book a hotel through these programs on your own.

In this guide, we’ll dive into what these two programs are, their benefits, and when it makes the most sense to book Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous hotels.

What Is Marriott STARS?

Marriott STARS is composed of only the most luxurious hotel brands within the Marriott portfolio. The following brands are part of Marriott STARS:

  • The Ritz-Carlton
  • Ritz-Carlton Reserve
  • St. Regis
  • EDITION
  • The Luxury Collection
  • Bvlgari Hotels and Resorts

You can book any hotel that belongs to these brands through the Marriott STARS program, and when you do, you’ll get the following benefits:

  • A $100 (USD) hotel credit per stay
  • Complimentary daily breakfast for up to two people per room
  • Room upgrade, subject to availability upon check-in
  • Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability
  • In-person welcome
  • A personalized welcome amenity

The two most valuable benefits are the $100 (USD) credit, and the complimentary breakfast for two. Furthermore, room upgrades can be immensely valuable, especially if you get an upgrade to one of the higher-tier suites at any of these luxury hotels.

Get breakfast included at The Bodrum EDITION by booking through Marriott STARS

There is no additional cost for booking through Marriott STARS and receiving these benefits. However, the rate you book is usually equivalent to the best flexible rate you would find on Marriott.com or through the Marriott app.

This means that prepaid rates, member rates, or corporate rates would not be eligible for bookings with Marriott STARS. While they’d cost less than the Marriott STARS rate, they don’t include the same perks, and they can also be more restrictive.

For example, let’s suppose that you’re heading to Tasmania and you’ve got your eyes on The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel. You intend on paying cash for the stay, and you don’t enjoy status with Marriott.

A one-night stay prices out at $478 AUD ($413 CAD) as a Member Flexible Rate. It doesn’t come with any additional perks or benefits.

When booked through Marriott STARS, the same room prices out at $488 AUD ($422 CAD), but comes with a number of extra inclusions.

By booking through Marriott STARS and paying an extra $10, you’d enjoy the following amenities for roughly the same price as if booking directly with the hotel:

  • Complimentary breakfast for two
  • A $100 (USD) hotel credit
  • Early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Welcome amenity

In this case, it makes overwhelming sense to book the hotel through Marriott STARS versus booking directly with the hotel. Of course, if you enjoy Marriott Bonvoy Platinum, Titanium, or Ambassador status, then breakfast and late check-out would be included anyway, but the $100 (USD) property credit wouldn’t.

If you’re going to pay cash for a hotel under any of these brands, it always makes sense to check how the member rate compares with the STARS rate and weigh up the savings against the benefits.

You can look up Marriott STARS rates on your own using the rate code “S72” on the Marriott website, though you’ll only be able to book through select travel advisors.

What Is Marriott Luminous?

Marriott Luminous is almost identical to Marriott STARS; however, the program is made up of different Marriott hotel brands, and the benefits differ slightly.

The following full-service hotel brands make up Marriott Luminous:

  • JW Marriott
  • Autograph Collection
  • W Hotels
  • Westin
  • Le Méridien
  • Marriott
  • Renaissance
  • Tribute Portfolio

While these may be considered a step down from the most luxurious brands of Marriott STARS, note that W Hotels and JW Marriott are still part of Marriot’s luxury brands, while the rest fall under Marriott’s “premium” tier.

The typical suite of benefits you’ll receive through the Marriott Luminous program includes:

  • $100 (USD) hotel credit (at select hotels only)
  • Complimentary daily breakfast for up to two people per room
  • Room upgrade, subject to availability upon check-in
  • Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability
  • A personalized welcome amenity

Unlike Marriott STARS, while some hotels within the Marriott Luminous portfolio may offer a $100 (USD) credit, not all of the hotels do. It’s important to check and see if that benefit is being offered at your desired hotel, which your travel advisor will do on your behalf.

Another major difference between Marriott Luminous and Marriott STARS is that all luxury hotels under STARS brands can be booked through the STARS program, whereas not all hotels under Luminous brands participate in Luminous; individual hotels can choose to opt out if they wish.

For example, the Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort isn’t listed as a Marriott Luminous property, even though the Westin brand falls under the Marriott Luminous umbrella. On the other hand, other properties like the JW Marriott Maldives, W Maldives, and Le Méridien Maldives are listed as Marriott Luminous properties. 

To take a closer look at how Marriott Luminous works, let’s suppose that someone without Marriott Bonvoy elite status is looking to pay cash for a stay at Le Méridien Lav near Split, Croatia.

Book Le Méridien Lav with Marriott Luminous

By booking directly with the hotel, the lowest available rate is €289 ($389 CAD).

The same room booked through Marriott Luminous is €295 ($397 CAD), but comes with daily breakfast for two, early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability), and an upgrade (subject to availability).

By paying an extra €6 ($8 CAD) per night, you wind up with many more benefits than if you’d just booked directly with the hotel. Of course, the difference in rates may be higher in some cases, in which you’d want to weigh up the savings against the incremental benefits.

You can look up Marriott Luminous rates on your own using the rate code “L72” on the Marriott website, though you’ll only be able to book through select travel advisors.

What Is Marriott Luminous All-Inclusive?

In addition to regular full-service hotels, Marriott Luminous also encompasses Marriott’s all-inclusive properties, including brands like Royalton, Planet Hollywood, Elegant Hotels, among others.

At these properties, Luminous benefits include the following:

  • Unlimited premium liquor package
  • $50–600 (USD) hotel credit for enhanced experiences
  • Welcome amenity
  • Room upgrade, subject to availability upon check-in
  • Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability

For example, a four-night stay at the Royalton Blue Waters Montego Bay would cost $396 (USD) per night at the member rate, or $466 (USD) per night at the public flexible rate.

However, by booking through Marriott Luminous, you’ll pay a discounted Luminous rate of $419 (USD) per night, and you’ll also get $600 (USD) in resort credits during your stay, premium liquor, a welcome amenity, the possibility of an upgrade, early check-in, and late check-out, and more!

Those additional benefits would easily justify an extra $20 (USD) per night compared to booking the member rate directly.

If you’re planning an all-inclusive stay with one of the brands within Marriott’s portfolio, it’s almost always worth checking the Luminous rate to see if you might come out ahead.

Why Book Hotels Through Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous?

The primary attraction of booking through Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous is that you can receive elite benefits without having to hold Marriott elite status.

In fact, even if you already have elite status, the benefits you receive from Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous will stack with your current elite benefits, and in some cases will even exceed them.

For example, Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite members and above are not entitled to complimentary breakfast at Ritz-Carlton or EDITION properties. Moreover, Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite members are not entitled to room or suite upgrades at Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotels, even though they get suite upgrades at all other Marriott properties.

Enjoy extra benefits at The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto by booking through Marriott STARS

However, booking through Marriott STARS will get you a room upgrade (subject to availability), and you’ll enjoy breakfast benefits at all Ritz-Carlton and EDITION hotels.

Not only will your benefits stack if you hold Marriott Elite status, but any bookings made through the Marriott STARS and Marriott Luminous programs will be treated as though you booked with Marriott directly.

This means you’ll be able to earn Bonvoy points and elite qualifying nights to maintain or qualify for status. In addition, Marriott STARS and Luminous bookings will be eligible for any promotions you are registered for, such as double elite qualifying nights or double points.

You’ll earn elite qualifying nights by booking through Marriott STARS

How to Maximize Value with Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous

While making bookings through Marriott STARS and Luminous can offer great value with the additional benefits, it’s important to always compare rates to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can.

Compare with Public Rates

If you have access to prepaid rates, member rates, or corporate rates, you may find lower-priced booking options than the STARS an Luminous rates. Keep in mind that prepaid rates won’t give you the same flexibility if you want to make changes or cancel your booking.

As you make your comparisons, you’ll have to decide how much you value the additional benefits offered through Marriott STARS and Luminous, compared to the amount you could save by booking a lower rate. At times, the $100 (USD) credit may easily make up the difference, but at other times, it won’t.

Furthermore, if you have Marriott Bonvoy points, you should weigh up whether it’s best to redeem points or pay for your stay. This is especially true if you have a stay of five nights, as you’d then get the Fifth Night Free benefit when redeeming points.

You can stand to benefit from a $100 (USD) hotel credit by booking with Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous

Book Shorter Stays

With this in mind, the $100 (USD) credit will be significantly more valuable on shorter stays than on longer stays, as you’ll only get one $100 (USD) credit no matter how many nights you’ve booked for.

Note that if you book separate consecutive nights at the same hotel through a Marriott STARS or Luminous rate, they’ll be treated as one consecutive stay, and you won’t receive the credit each night.

Property-Specific Special Offers

Many Marriott STARS and Luminous properties have ongoing offers specifically for guests who book through these channels.

These may include simple discounts in the form of 3rd/4th/5th Night Free deals, or more creative promotions like “book a suite and get an additional $250 (USD) in property credit”.

These promotions rotate throughout the year, and are designed as a way for Marriott to capture incremental business among travel advisors that offer STARS and Luminous rates.

If you’re interested in a Marriott STARS or Luminous property, you can ask your travel advisor if there are any special offers going on at the time that can help sweeten the deal further.

Compare with Virtuoso & Amex FHR

The Marriott STARS and Luminous programs are not the only way to book luxury Marriott hotels and get extra perks and benefits.

Virtuoso is another program that provides extra perks for booking through them, while American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) offers extra perks for premium cardholders. Both programs also have high-end Marriott hotels available.

When making your hotel booking, your travel advisor will be able to see both Virtuoso and Marriott STARS or Luminous rates, and will be able to provide you with all the best options in order to make sure that you’re getting the best deal possible. 

Meanwhile, if you hold the American Express Platinum Card or American Express Business Platinum Card, then you’d need to look up Amex FHR hotel rates on your own. Indeed, the program is exclusive for premium cardholders, whereas anyone can book stays with either Marriott STARS and Luminous or Virtuoso.

One thing to note is that bookings made through Marriott’s own STARS and Luminous programs tend to have a higher upgrade priority than bookings made through other similar platforms. If all else is equal, it’ll always make sense to book Marriott properties through Marriott STARS and Luminous over Virtuoso or Amex FHR.

Booking with Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous could result in prioritized room upgrades

Moreover, Virtuoso’s $100 (USD) credit can sometimes be more restrictive than Marriott STARS and Luminous – for example, limiting its usage to food and beverages rather than all incidental spend on the property.

However, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts offers one significant benefit that Marriott STARS and Luminous do not: guaranteed 4pm late check-out. If this is important to you, it may be worth choosing the Amex FHR rate. 

Let’s take a look at an example. The St. Regis Istanbul is listed under both Marriott STARS and Virtuoso. 

On Virtuoso, a one-night stay in a base-level king room prices out at $542 (USD) per night. The Virtuoso rate includes an upgrade on arrival (subject to availability), buffet breakfast for two, a $100 (USD) food and beverage credit, and early check-in/late check-out (subject to availability).

The same room, if booked through Marriott STARS, also prices out at €550, which is slightly lower as the Virtuoso rate after currency conversion at the time of writing (~$538), and includes many of the same benefits.

Note that the STARS rate lists the benefit as “100 USD food and beverage credit per stay” in the main search screen. However, if you expand the Rate Details, you’ll see that it encompasses spa services and recreational activities, too.

Lastly, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts prices out exactly the same as Marriott STARS, offering a superior guaranteed 4pm late check-out and a more restrictive $100 (USD) food and beverage credit among its benefits.

If late check-out would be valuable to you, Amex FHR may be your best bet; otherwise, if, say, you know you’ll be departing early on the final day and don’t need late check-out, then booking through Marriott STARS would offer you the highest priority for upgrades and the most flexible property credit out of all three. 

Conclusion

Marriott STARS and Luminous are Marriott’s preferred partner programs, which can provide great value at luxury hotels by way of additional perks and benefits. Although you can only book these through select travel advisor or agency, it will cost you the same as booking a flexible rate with Marriott directly.

You’ll always want to compare Marriott STARS and Luminous rates with other options available, in order to make sure that you’re getting the best deal available that suits your specific travel needs.

Booking through STARS and Luminous can make sense both for travellers with Marriott Bonvoy elite status and those without status, elevating the existing benefits of the former and offering effortless elite-like treatment for the latter. 

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